Oakland Pride and a 5th Grade Vocabulary Test
It was Oakland Pride this past weekend, and I was proud to be out in the streets with my family supporting this very much needed fundraiser for the LGBTQ community in my town.
The city hasn’t held its own Pride in 6 years, so it was a big deal to show up and prove there was support for this event. There were lots of families and we spent our time going back and forth between a sectioned-off kids area with a bouncy house and face painting and the Women’s Stage where a lot of my friends were performing. The East Bay is blessed to have so many fantastic performers, both queer and otherwise. We ran into many people I knew and the boys got tired of having to shake so many hands, but their momma knows folks, and folks say hi when you bump into each other at Pride.
I was chatting it up with some friends, when the two women performing on stage started the final song in their set. All of a sudden it was “Pussy, Pussy, EAT THAT PUSSY!” Ummm, what? Two seconds ago they were rapping about being broke but not giving up hope and the importance of a publicly funded college system. And now it’s step by step instructions on how to get a woman to orgasm via oral. It was a great beat, and the women had skills. But… err? I look over to the boys to see if they are paying attention.
My younger son has a sort of confused expression, face a little scrunched up. Kind of like a puppy. My older son is totally indignant, eyebrows raised, he says to me, “Really?” Ok, gotta go. I excuse myself from the group and tell the boys it’s time to go get a big red velvet cupcake from further up the block. Divert, divert, divert!
I usher them out of earshot quickly and hope that the massive amount of sugar they are about to ingest will thoroughly distract them. It does. Until later…
My older son and I are in the kitchen, we’d been home a couple of hours. I think he waited until it was just the two of us so he could ask:
“Mom, what’s a pussy?”
Freeze the eyebrows, take a mental snapshot of this moment, deep breath, “You sure you want to know? This can wait until you’re older.”
“Is it another word for a vagina?”
Another deep breath, he is going to be so embarrassed by this someday. I can just see him at like 13 or 14 looking back and being mortified that he actually asked his mom for clarification of what pussy is. “Yep.”
I am watching his face carefully. Listening to the tone of his voice. What is bothering him about this? What does he need from me at this moment?
“Thought so,” he nods solemnly, and begins to turn away. Is that it? I’m hoping, but hesitant, no that can’t be all…
“Mom, but… I don’t understand… why would someone want to put their mouth on a vagina?” Oh snap! Did he just say that? “Like, that’s where babies come out and periods happen.”
I’m nodding my head in that strange circular fashion where you look like your trying to avoid choking, because I am, literally, trying to avoid choking. He looks more perplexed than disgusted, which I admit, I take comfort in. He’s 10. When I was 10 I knew what pussy meant, yes as a biological descriptor, but mostly as an insult. I am amazed at these moments that prove I’ve blocked out at least a portion of the misogyny I was exposed to. But back to the matter at hand. Do I explain oral sex to the 10 year old?
“Um well it does happen…”
“Enough to rap on stage about it.” He adds a little pshh at the end of his sentence. I can see he is toggling between was that song just bizarre, crazy, wildly inappropriate or is there really some normal behavior he just hasn’t ever heard of. The reality is right in the middle, and per usual, I am expecting my kid to grasp the complexity that is sex. No, I don’t need to describe what that song was about. I just need to give it a context and acknowledge his discomfort.
“You’re not supposed to understand that yet. It’s ok if it confuses you. It’s totally ok if it creeps you out. That song wasn’t speaking to you and you were not intended to hear it. Just let it go for now, and we can talk about it again if you need to, but really, this is a better conversation for when you’re a little older.” Please work, please work, please work- I am crossing my fingers and toes.
“Ok,” he looks placated enough, for now. He actually seems relieved. His fact finding mission was successful. His mom answered his question and took him seriously. When he left the kitchen I put both hands to my mouth and cracked up.